Keeping an eye on trans-Atlantic costs
The operation of low-cost airlines over the Atlantic is no longer a minor travel development — it’s huge
As we remain in the high season for trans-Atlantic travel, the big news continues to be the growth of the low-cost airlines. What once was an exotic oddity has now become a major segment of the aviation industry.
Numerous airlines are now charging as little as $400-$600 per person round-trip between various U.S. cities and European capitals.
The participating airlines are Norwegian (the biggest of them), XL (flying only to Paris), WOW (flying via Reykjavik, Iceland, to Europe), and Level (flying from Barcelona to Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Dominican Republic only).
These airlines’ continued existence has caused several of the standard airlines to occasionally match their low prices. Therefore, the cost-conscious traveler will need to spend an hour or so on the computer searching the available fares not simply on the low-cost carriers named above, but also on the standard carriers.
A number of media outlets have mistakenly added the new Air France/KLM carrier called Joon to the list of low-cost trans-Atlantic carriers.
However, Joon will fly only from Europe to various Asian cities, and it will not always charge lower-than-usual prices for those Europe-to-Asia flights).
To take advantage of the amazing $400-$600 rates, you’ll need to go without certain amenities. All of the low-cost carriers charge extra for checking luggage and for enjoying meals provided by the airline, with the exception of XL. The airlines also do not permit their passengers to choose their locations on the plane, and some cost-conscious types will find themselves in a middle seat.
But even when you spend an additional $50 or so each way for checking a large suitcase with a budget airline, you will still spend far less than most of the standard airlines are charging.
And if you are able to limit your luggage to a small carryon stuffed into the overhead rack, you will rejoice in a roundtrip fare as low as $400 for the round-trip to, say, London.
Executives of the standard airlines have been quick to ridicule the new low-cost airlines. They have been quoted as saying that low-cost carriers ultimately will learn that they cannot continue to exist on income as little as $400 per person for a round trip to Europe. They cite the well-known earlier low-cost airlines, like the much-lamented Laker Airways and People Express, which both went out of business despite (or because of) their low fares.
But the low-cost carriers respond by pointing out that the recent sharp decline in the cost of aviation fuel (a product of low-cost oil) has more than enabled them to operate at cheap prices.
We all can rejoice in their shouts of triumph. At least for the time being, it is possible to fly round-trip to Europe for as little as $400 to $600.
Norwegian-based XL Airlines is one of a crop of low-cost airlines flying over the Atlantic Ocean.